How a Great Power Falls Apart
Decline Is Invisible From the Inside
During the late 1970s and the early 1980s the idea that a truly radical reformer could emerge as Soviet general secretary, and especially that such a reformer might emerge from the Communist Party apparatus and Leonid Brezhnev's Politburo, seemed virtually unthinkable. This assumption determined the Western view of Mikhail Gorbachev until the Chernobyl nuclear power plant crisis, the emergence of the policy of glasnost and the release of Andrei Sakharov from internal exile in Gorky in late 1986. For the next two years, most analysts emphasized the overwhelming conservative domestic opposition to Gorbachev and to his reform programs. With the elections to the new Supreme Soviet in March 1989 and the coal mine strikes the following July, however, the perception of overwhelming danger from conservative social forces gave way to a perception that the real danger was from the left.
Through all of this continuing American anxiety, all the traditional analytic indicators have suggested that Gorbachev was steadily accumulating power, and was at the same time acting with extraordinary self-confidence in the conduct of foreign policy. Even in economic policy, Gorbachev has moved from reform measures that were unthinkable only a year ago, to other measures that were even more unthinkable. Thus, the most immediate results of the sessions of the Congress of People's Deputies and Supreme Soviet were to discredit Premier Nikolai Ryzhkov and to overcome his opposition to reform. (Ryzhkov himself called it a "rectification" process.) The most immediate result of the coal strikes and the Baltic agitation for nearly full autonomy were counterdemands by Russian coal miners and the Russian Republic government for a price reform that radical economists had been saying was politically unacceptable to the Soviet people.
The suggestion has been made that all of this turmoil proves that Gorbachev has no strategy. If we in the West are surprised by events, then we think that Gorbachev must be surprised by them. If we do not understand what is going on, then we think that things are out of control. That is wrong: Gorbachev has a strategy.
Indeed, our constant sense of anxiety about perestroika, coupled with an ever-shifting analysis of the reasons for our anxiety, suggests that the trouble may be in us, not in Gorbachev. The analysis that has been closer to the truth suggests that Gorbachev is a very skilled politician who knows what he is doing, that he is operating a political system using some traditional levers of power and is responding to-and manipulating-social forces of a type that were anticipated in American theories of totalitarianism and modernization of the 1950s. But instead of following these theories we have allowed our analysis to reflect the stream of ever-changing rumors in the Moscow intellectual community.
If we are to understand the Soviet present and future, we must step back from-and in large part simply ignore-the Moscow rumors and ask ourselves more fundamental questions. What are the major forces of contemporary Russian history? How is Gorbachev trying to direct them and use them?
We must begin by recognizing that a most fundamental change is occurring in both Soviet domestic and foreign policy. Paradoxically we have found this hard to accept because we have abandoned our old understanding of Russia, its history and its people. During the first great flowering of Soviet studies, in the 1950s, it was said-I would say, was recognized-that Russia was a fairly normal European country. Observers pointed out that "Europe" featured great diversity in its political and economic development, with Spain and Portugal being far different from Germany (or the German states) and Greece from England. They emphasized that the path to democracy was very fitful throughout Europe in the nineteenth century and the first four decades of the twentieth century. Today we have a more idealized view of the tradition of "the West," but the generation of scholars who had come of age in the 1920s and the 1930s had a very clear and anxious sense that democracy might be an unnatural deviation from the course of European history, not its natural line of development.
The Russian path to democracy was slower than most in the late nineteenth century, but we believed that this was the result of the delay in the country's industrialization. We saw the democracy of the village mir and then the reforms of the second half of the nineteenth century as part of a Russian tradition on which fuller democratization could be built.1 Once rapid industrialization and the rapid growth of the middle class began in the 1890s, we accepted the half-successful revolution of 1905, the cultural-economic-political liberalization of 1906-1914, and the democratic revolution of February-March 1917 as falling in the natural course of Russian history.
It was the Bolshevik Revolution of November 1917 that we saw as a wrenching tear in the pattern of Russian history, in retrospect, as great as the later Nazi revolution in Germany and similarly a product of extreme and temporary social dislocations. W. W. Rostow called communism "the disease of the transition," and in both the Russian and the Chinese cases Western observers emphasized the devastating impact of war on the cohesiveness of the army's ability to control extremist elements.
Now many see the February-March revolution as the unnatural one and the Bolshevik Revolution as the return of Russians to their "natural" authoritarian, xenophobic, security-centered path. This view is expressed in euphemisms: some simply write of the conservatism of all of Russian society, others emphasize the "social contract" in which Brezhnev's combination of authoritarianism and security-oriented welfare state gave the Russians what they supposedly wanted; and still others stress the continuing impact of an authoritarian "political culture." Some observers of international relations made the point indirectly by treating "Europe" as ending at the Soviet-Polish border. But the point was summarized most succinctly at the end of Hedrick Smith's enormously popular book The Russians: "It was the same under the czars. They're the same people."2
The implications of these two competing views of Russian history and the Russian people are starkly different. If Brezhnevism was a social contract that gave the Russian people what they wanted, if it was the natural product of Russian political culture and history, then the 1985 predictions that Gorbachev represented only a change in style, not substance, and the claims of an overwhelming conservative opposition to his reforms made logical sense. This view was expressed in an article by George Feifer in Harper's in 1981, quoting Russians he had met:
If the hated regime were to collapse overnight, fierce nationalists would be more likely than enlightened liberals to replace it. . . . Every one of these party bosses is a drab, empty functionary. . . . Everybody knows that replacing the first secretary (of a region's Communist Party organization) . . . would change nothing because the new one would be exactly the same kind of man. A better one just can't get to that position.3
It turned out, however, that at least two regional first secretaries-Mikhail Gorbachev and Eduard Shevardnadze-were in fact quite different. It also turned out that the Central Committee elected a month after Feifer's article was composed of party officials and former party officials who were to elect Mikhail Gorbachev as general secretary four years later.
The implications of the older view of the Russian people are very different. If Bolshevism was the unnatural product of a dislocated population at the beginning of the century, if it was an unnatural break with Russian history, if it was a disease of the transition, then the rise of a huge middle class and the passing from the scene of the teenagers of the Civil War (the Brezhnev generation) and, finally, the death of Brezhnev-all should produce enormous change. It is the occasion for the return home of Russians to Europe. Transitions are, after all, transitory.
This older view of the Russians is the correct one. The Russians are, in fact, returning home to Europe. Home, however, has changed in 70 years. The Estonians dream of a return to their sovereignty of 1939, but no country in Europe has that kind of sovereignty today. Europe is no longer a place of warring nation-states, but an increasingly integrated community. If the processes of Western integration deepen after 1992, the difference between the sovereignty of West European states and the kind of autonomy enjoyed by Quebec inside Canada will continue to narrow. For this reason, the reintegration of Russia into the Europe of the 1990s involves even more enormous change than if it had occurred earlier.
There are many ways to describe the traditional communist system, and some illuminate today's driving forces for change better than others. Again, however, it is an older insight about totalitarianism that is of the most help-that about the strong similarity between left- and right-wing extremism. The Bolshevik leaders shared important common features not only with Adolf Hitler, but also with the Ayatollah Khomeini. Western conservatives were correct when they said that the essence of communism was a repudiation of Western civilization-or at least of modern Western civilization.
Bolshevism drew its support from the same type of frightened newcomer to the cities that would later support Khomeini. In practice, it implied a rejection not only of the market forces in the economic base of capitalism, but also of its superstructure-modern Western culture, politics and values that Marx claimed simply served the interests of an exploiting ruling class. The essence of communism was an erection of an Iron Curtain against frightening market forces (especially foreign ones) but also against frightening modern Western culture.
By the 1980s three central developments had undercut the support for the communist system as it had emerged in the Soviet Union. First, the social conditions that produced support for Lenin and Stalin disappeared as thoroughly as those that produced support for Hitler in Germany. A huge middle class had been created: the number of Soviet citizens with a high school diploma or better increased from 25 million at the end of the Khrushchev era to 125 million today.
The radical Moscow intellectuals usually analyze Soviet urban society in terms of the intelligentsia, the bureaucrats and workers, and we too seldom think of a Soviet middle class. Nevertheless, the much maligned "bureaucrats," other than those at the very top, really are the middle class. They are grossly underpaid and economically underprivileged compared to Western standards. They too suffered from the restrictions on travel and on the media, on which they relied for their information and entertainment.
The workers are a mixed group. The older workers and the newcomers from the countryside are scarcely middle class, but those under 30 years of age with a high school education are a different sort. Bright and ambitious workers (and their children) do not want to stay on the assembly line, but to move up into the middle class as shop owners, small businessmen and construction contractors. During the first six months of 1989, the number of people employed in cooperatives rose from 1.4 million to 2.9 million.4 Conservatives have begun to complain about the flow of workers from state industry into the cooperatives, and about factories idle for lack of workers. A young private taxi driver in Moscow I spoke to estimates that up to thirty percent of his generation now works in the cooperative sector. While this figure is undoubtedly high, it is precisely the most talented and ambitious young people, those who might cause political trouble, who are enriching themselves in great numbers. The fact that Siberian coal miners struck for more independence for their mines, and for a rise in coal prices, was a flash of lightning that illuminated the Soviet scene.
The members of the new Soviet middle class were taught Russian nineteenth-century literature when they were young, and they absorbed its values. When they were teenagers, they did not have a xenophobic fear of the West, but yearned for blue jeans, jazz, Western films, any Western souvenirs. Their attitude toward the West has not changed now that they are in their fifties. When the coal miners of remote Siberia struck this spring, one of their demands was access to foreign currency so that they could buy foreign goods. Back when Malenkov and then Kosygin tried to mobilize the Soviet middle class, it was too small; now it is the dominant social force in the country, even within the party.
The second major development that undercut communism was an economic one. The Iron Curtain that protected frightened newcomers to the city from world market forces also protected Soviet manufacturers from world competition. Even when foreign goods were imported, local manufacturers lost no business and did not have to raise the quality of their goods in response. Unlike their counterparts in Japan (or even East Germany), Soviet manufacturers were under no pressure to export, hence they did not even have to meet foreign competition abroad. Western textbooks proved to be absolutely right on the consequences of protectionism, let alone total protectionism: low quality, lack of innovation, inefficiency and unresponsiveness to consumer demand. The Stalin and Brezhnev generations promised that autarky would make Russia superior to countries with a capitalist system; instead autarky doomed Russia to inferiority.
Third, as Russia moves toward the next century, it faces a totally different geostrategic situation than it did through most of the twentieth century. Historically, the threat to Russia came solely from Europe. Although Japan posed a military challenge early in the twentieth century, and China an ideological one in the second half, the basic fields of force to which Russians reacted were European.
Those who led the West in the postwar era realized an enormous achievement, one that transformed the fields of force: the end of over four hundred years of war on the West European continent. A common European home has been created from the Elbe River to California, with six hundred million Europeans now living in peace. As a result, the Soviet Union no longer faces any threat from the West and has no need for buffer states. To the extent that Western nuclear weapons do pose a potential threat, buffer zones are no defense against intercontinental ballistic missiles. In addition, the Soviet Union has learned that communist colonies in Eastern Europe-let alone hypothetical ones in Western Europe-can be as much an economic drain and political headache as overseas colonies were for Britain and France.
Therefore, as Russians look toward the 21st century, the great potential danger comes from Asia. China with a billion people and atomic weapons, and even India, with nearly as many people and the capacity for a nuclear arsenal, will become industrial superpowers. It is very likely that at some point both will build more powerful military machines. This will transform the geostrategic considerations for all great powers, but for the Soviet Union most of all.
In short, the Soviet Union now has a large educated middle class that is less obsessed with security, wants more freedom for itself and a much fuller integration into Europe, and insists that this opening to the world economy is crucial for the nation. It argues that the rise of Asia makes domestic stagnation and enmity with Europe intolerable. The right-wing nationalists have no effective answer to the charge that their isolationism and support of traditional peasant values will leave Russia defenseless. We grossly exaggerate the strength of conservatives in the Soviet Union, for the Westernizers have been able to seize the banner of Russian nationalism and patriotism from their hands.
Gorbachev's policy is to be understood in these terms. While early Soviet leaders sought their social support from workers and from those administrators and engineers who came directly from worker and peasant stock, Gorbachev is seeking his support from the broader middle class-not just the intellectuals, but also the so-called bureaucrats and the educated workers who want to enter the middle class. He uses the phrase "common European home" to refer both to his domestic policy of reintegrating Russia and Eastern Europe (including East Germany) back into European civilization and the world economy and to the foreign and military policies that are necessary to achieve it. Just as Stalin justified his policy of autarky as necessary to build Soviet national power, Gorbachev makes the same claim for his policy of ending autarky.
If, however, the pressures for Russian integration into the world economy-and consequently into world civilization-are absolutely compelling and inexorable, the path by which this occurs need not be so. When peoples as diverse as the Spaniards, the Brazilians and the South Koreans have developed a large and educated middle class, they have pushed for full democratization. The sudden talk in the West about the threat of anarchy in the Soviet Union at a minimum reflects an understanding that there are powerful forces that may push liberalization outside the framework of a one-party system toward Western-style democracy.
Americans are finally becoming aware of the danger to Gorbachev from the left. They have begun to recognize that Boris Yeltsin is Gorbachev's chief opponent, not his closest ally as they thought before Yeltsin was removed from the Politburo in 1987. And they can quote remarkable, unprecedented statements from high Soviet officials. The first secretary of the Chita obkom in Siberia was particularly alarmist: "The events in the Kuzbass [coal fields] have thrown me into shock to a certain degree. I think that if Siberia has not stood firm, if people have been reeling even here, then we are almost on the brink."5 The chairman of the Council of Ministers, Nikolai Ryzhkov, seemed to agree:
The party, practically speaking, is losing authority in the eyes of the people. . . . Consciously or unconsciously, the appearance is continuing to be preserved that nothing special has occurred, that the basic levers remain in our hands as before and that with their help, with the same old methods, we can still control the complicated processes that are developing in our country, but this is being done at a time when influence, power, and the possibility of influencing everything that is occurring in society is being lost.6
Without any question, Gorbachev does have opposition on the left as well as on the right, but we need to be very cautious not to exaggerate it. Gorbachev himself responded to the complaints of those such as Ryzhkov with near contempt: "Surely," he said, "it is not necessary to panic when revolutionary processes become a reality. It was we who produced them with our policy. Didn't we understand this when we discussed all this?"7
We need to take this statement of Gorbachev's very seriously. In fact, very little has happened in the last year that was not the consequence of conscious policy. The nomination of candidates to the March Supreme Soviet elections could have been more tightly controlled-and, in fact, it often was except in areas like Moscow, Leningrad, the Urals and Siberia, where the Politburo conservatives such as Yegor Ligachev and Lev Zaikov were humiliated.8 The meetings of the Congress of People's Deputies did not have to be shown on television, and radical delegates did not have to be given so much access to the podium-so much that other delegates complained. Since nationalist demonstrations in potentially violent Kazakhstan and Georgia were quickly suppressed, it would have been easy to suppress developments in the tiny Baltic states. And while the coal strikes were probably unintended-although certainly stimulated by the electoral campaign, the congress speeches on the conditions in the area and the outrageous near-unanimous confirmation of the minister of the coal industry by the Supreme Soviet-there was no need to give them the degree of press coverage they received in the Soviet Union. The statements such as the Chita obkom secretary's and Ryzhkov's did not have to be published in Pravda. Gorbachev may have made one mistake after another, but they were conscious decisions, not a forced response to irresistible pressures. The heightened economic expectations in the Soviet Union today are also a response to his rhetoric.
Gorbachev has been extremely careful, methodical and skilled in the way he has consolidated power within the party. He has full access to KGB reports, secret public opinion polls and information from the party apparatus, and it has not been his style to be politically reckless. When so many Western observers have been consistently wrong over the last five years, when their analysis has changed in six months from emphasizing the insurmountable conservative opposition to stressing the potential of anarchy, it is surprising that these same observers are still confident that they understand the political dynamics of the Soviet Union better than the general secretary. We should consider the possibility that Gorbachev, with all the sources of information (secret and open) at his disposal, is smart enough to evaluate the risks of his actions and to do what he needs to do.
The basic factor that Gorbachev understands-and that also underlies the longstanding perception of the Soviet intelligentsia that the Russian people are basically conservative-is the effect of the multinational character of the Soviet Union on the Russian attitude toward full democracy. The vast majority of Russians-even highly educated Russians, including the intelligentsia-are very leery of the possibility that a multiparty democracy would lead to the establishment of separatist parties in union and autonomous republics that would gain majority support. Ligachev was speaking for the majority of Russians (and probably for Gorbachev as well) with the following statement last July:
Recently calls for a multiparty system have been heard. In the conditions of a federative government such as the Soviet Union, this is simply fatal. A multiparty system would mean the disintegration of the Soviet system. . . . The Communist Party is the only real political force which unites all peoples of the country into a single union of republics. There is no other.9
We in the West have become so obsessed with the potential disintegration inherent in the multinational character of the Soviet Union that we have forgotten the integrative mechanisms in such a system. Indeed, if Russia were an ethnically homogenous country such as Japan, there would be no possibility for Gorbachev to prevent the kind of democratization that developed in Spain, Brazil and South Korea. What is crucial about protest in the Soviet Union is not the occurrence of demonstrations in Tallinn, Kishinev and Baku, but the absence of significant demonstrations by the students in Moscow and Leningrad. It is the former demonstrations that are the most powerful deterrent of the latter, for the Moscow students fear that democracy for themselves would mean the breakup of the union. A Boris Yeltsin who is forced to concede that this program means the possibility of independence for the Baltic republics faces a virtually impossible task in winning the populist mandate.
We are, indeed, witnessing a period of turmoil in the Soviet Union, but there are many kinds of turmoil. In the Iran of 1977, or in the Philippines of 1985, revolutionary forces could not be controlled by the old regime. On the other hand, the turmoil in the United States in the 1960s and the early 1970s, while directed against the government in power and its policy, never came close to threatening the stability of the political system. The upheavals in the Soviet Union from 1927 to 1930 were to a very considerable extent directed from above, as Stalin moved to consolidate his political power and conduct a revolutionary policy to overcome the economic problems of the time: it presented only the most minimal threat to the leader or the system. It is this Soviet turmoil of the late 1920s that provides the best analogy to bear in mind in seeking to understand the contemporary Soviet Union.
As Mikhail Gorbachev surveyed his problems in 1985, he faced little difficulty with a classic consolidation of power if he only wanted a policy of moderate reform. The country had experienced ten years of failing leaders, and the office of general secretary had acquired a legitimacy that it did not have when Lenin and Stalin died. (Two years after Stalin's death, Khrushchev had to go to the Geneva conference as a member of a delegation headed by the chairman of the Council of Ministers, but eight months after Konstantin Chernenko's death, Mikhail Gorbachev headed the delegation to the Geneva conference as unquestioned leader.) When Gorbachev was selected as a young and vigorous general secretary in a time of troubles, the other leaders knew that they were giving a mandate to a leader who would be hard to control, let alone remove.
But Gorbachev wanted more than moderate reform. In the last months of Chernenko's life, Gorbachev gave a speech that "seemed to be calling for a transformation of the nation as radical as the one wrought by Stalin in the brutal industrialization drive of the 1930s."10 As he assumed power, Gorbachev reaffirmed his general intentions (for example, he told the editors of Time that he had a "grandiose" domestic program), and his rhetoric became progressively more radical.
Gorbachev knew that if he intended major privatization of the economy, a reintegration of Russia into the world economy (with the drastic change in information policy implied), and a large decrease in military spending, then conservative resistance would be strong. More important, such a program was certain to create real problems in maintaining popular support. Movement toward market prices had produced demonstrations and the Solidarity trade union in Poland; a looser information policy was certain to permit the grievances of the intelligentsia and non-Russians to be more fully expressed; the variety of changes in ideology that his planned reforms required would undercut the old bases of legitimacy leaving an alternative not much different from Western social democracy.
Gorbachev had another, more subtle problem. He himself must have had a solid understanding of the explosiveness of the situation in the non-Russian republics: he had full access to KGB reports; his closest colleague on the Politburo was a Georgian, Eduard Shevardnadze; he had selected as his chief adviser a man with a deep suspicion both of Russian and non-Russian nationalism, Aleksandr Yakovlev. Yet, many Russians really seemed to believe the propaganda about brotherly relations and the successful solution of the nationality problem. Even now many of them are acknowledging (in private) how naïve they were and how shocked they have been by the strength of the national feeling. At a conference in Bashkiria in the southern Urals, I. I. Antonovich, deputy rector of the Central Committee's Academy of Social Sciences, claimed that the party as a whole was surprised:
It is necessary to say that we did not think that perestroika would provoke such a total aggravation of national relations through the whole country. . . . The party did not feel the national bitterness that had built up in the people. The sharp reaction was unexpected.11
At the conference, Antonovich was accused of exaggerating the degree of aggravation. Surely the leadership at least was more sophisticated than he suggested. Long before Brezhnev's death, Fedor Burlatsky, head of the Soviet Human Rights Commission, reported privately that the first thing that the top circles considered in any policy decision was the impact on relations among the republics. But if the chief deterrent to demonstrations among the Russians supporting full democracy is their fear of a breakup of the union, then by the same token this deterrent would not be very effective if the mass of Russians thought there was no danger to the union.
Gorbachev has followed a very sophisticated political strategy. Without question, he has followed a classic program of consolidating power within the party, and he has removed old officials much faster than any other general secretary in history. He has been quite sensitive to the potential power of the Central Committee to remove him. Not only did he postpone radical policy change until after the 27th Party Congress in 1986 replaced the Central Committee elected in 1981, he even persuaded one-quarter of the voting members of the 1986 Central Committee to resign "voluntarily" three years later. And by making himself chairman of the Supreme Soviet, removable only in open session by a Congress of People's Deputies that is more liberal than the Central Committee, he has made it virtually impossible for the conservatives in the Central Committee to remove him without a test of strength in the streets.
In addition, Gorbachev has often expressed his conscious sense that he is conducting a revolution, and he seems to accept the old idea that revolutions are like omelets and cannot be made without cracking eggs. Many speak about a neat and careful economic reform, but with everyone having something to gain and something to lose from reform, an orderly politics would feature everyone focusing on the preservation of their old privileges.
As a consequence, Gorbachev has acted as if he needed to develop conditions of controlled chaos, in which people feel that the status quo is intolerable and that Gorbachev's proposals are the only alternative. A frightening reform must be made to seem less frightening than a continuation of present conditions. Gorbachev has wanted the Russian people to be acutely aware of the depth of national feeling among non-Russians, and has used economic reform in the republics as the driving force for his perestroika throughout the union, for a number of reasons-including the need to make price reform indispensable to the achievement of equity among the republics. The subjective feeling among Moscow intellectuals is that the nationality problem is dangerous; this is precisely the result Gorbachev has been seeking to create.
We should not be fooled. Gorbachev is not taking enormous risks when he addresses the population. He has placed himself very comfortably in the center. He understands-as we must-that he is dealing with a Russian population that desperately wants more freedom and greater integration into the West, but that is still several decades from accepting the possibility of a breakup of the country. He understands-as we must-that the non-Russians are too divided among themselves to be a serious threat, especially when they can obtain three-fourths of a loaf (greater autonomy) if they do not destroy it by demanding too much. The Baltic peoples are very few in number, and they have been given special freedom to agitate because they would be so easy to suppress. The non-Russian Slavic peoples, the Byelorussians and the Ukrainians, are potentially a larger problem, but the apparent decision to grant ultimate independence to Poland reminds them-and the Lithuanians-that they may need Russian protection in the future for land that was ceded to them in the Stalin-Hitler agreements.
Gorbachev's policy of controlled chaos is not simply directed at strengthening his political control for the sake of power. It is to maintain his control while he transforms Russia. That latter task has had some fairly precise timetables. On the one hand, Gorbachev could not really begin radical reform until March 1986, when the Central Committee was replaced. Given the lead times in the economic planning process, this meant that reforms could not be introduced until January 1987 and really take effect by January 1988. On the other hand, as the economist Leonid Abalkin has been emphasizing, the basic reform needs to be in place at the beginning of the 1991-96 Five Year Plan, lest the new plan lock the old system of planning and supply procurement in place.12 Again, given lead times, this means that basic decisions must be made by the start of 1990 and that implementing decisions must be made during the year. It is, therefore, not at all accidental that 1989 was the year for Premier Ryzhkov to undergo "rectification," nor that this was the year when the question of regional economic autonomy would come to the fore (in order to put the question of price reform on the agenda).
The course of perestroika will not be smooth or neat, just as, for example, Italy's path to economic success has often seemed rocky, if not impossible. But Italy looks very different in retrospect than it did through the rather stereotyped perceptions of the not-so-distant times. The next generation will look back on 1989-90 not as a period of turmoil so much as the years of a great breakthrough.
If Gorbachev has a successful strategy to transform the Soviet Union, and if Soviet social forces will support evolutionary integration of Russia into Europe, then clearly it is not only the cold war that has ended, but the entire postwar period. We in the West would like a détente that ends the cold war, but deep in our hearts would like the predictable postwar period to continue. That is one reason we try to convince ourselves that Gorbachev is not for real.
But Gorbachev is for real, and the postwar period is over. Gorbachev's catchphrase "common European home" points in the right direction, if it is understood correctly. In the early years of the Gorbachev period, the question was: "Does Gorbachev want to split Western Europe and the United States?" In fact, Gorbachev has never had such an aim, but rather has had a conception of Europe that extends from Vladivostok westward all the way across Eurasia, the Atlantic and North America to California. He has not wanted to split the United States and Western Europe, because he senses that the superpowers of the future lie on his border, and that they contain a billion people and more: he wants his country to be part of a European community that also has a billion people. When the head of the Soviet General Staff, General Mikhail Moiseev, recently spoke fervently on an American television news program about the reestablishment of the wartime alliance, his point was not merely propagandistic.13
For Western governments, the real question has been whether Gorbachev is utterly dependent on U.S. support to achieve his domestic policy aims, or whether he is willing to take risks in Eastern Europe-and ultimately even play the German card-to accomplish his goals in the face of American resistance or skepticism. Those who have been startled by his unilateral reduction of troops in Europe and by his restraint in Poland and Hungary should ask themselves why he should stop now. The time has come for the United States, Western Europe and the Soviet Union to begin to cooperate actively in order to achieve a productive and stable transition to a "Europe" that includes all three, and a world that will look very different than it did in the postwar period.
2 Hedrick Smith, The Russians, New York: Quadrangle/The New York Times Book Co., 1976, p. 509.
4 Pravitelstvennyi vestnik, September 1989, p. 10.
5 Pravda, July 21, 1989, p. 4.
6 Ibid., p. 3.
7 Ibid., p. 1.
9 Pravda, July 21, 1989, p. 3. Gorbachev was only slightly less specific at the September 29 plenum of the Central Committee: "I want to emphasize as a key question of party structure: we are for an all-union state, for a federation of peoples, and, together with that, we are for the unity of the party, which is the important factor in consolidating society."
10 Serge Schmemann, "The Emergence of Gorbachev," The New York Times Magazine, March 3, 1985, p. 45.
11 Sovetskaia Bashkiriia, Apr. 11, 1989, p. 2.
13 "60 Minutes," CBS News, Sept. 17, 1989.